The Universal Service Fund now extends its remit to the USA’s rural broadband needs


FCC’s ‘Connect America Fund’ redirects phone fees to provide rural broadband – Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Press Release – PDF

Executive Summary of FCC order – PDF

Connecting America page

My Comments

The FCC have taken further steps to bring the reality of proper broadband service to rural areas closer to America.

Here, they have passed an Order to reform the Universal Service Fund and intercarrier compensation schemes in order to cut out wast and extend the scope of this universal-service-obligation mechanism to broadband data and cellular wireless service. This scheme has also been renamed the “Connect America Fund” due to this new remit.

They see it as a job-creating economy stimulus because of the concept of extending real broadband Internet to the rural areas. This could be true due to the ability for larger employers who value broadband like research-driven industries to set up shop in small towns where the land is cheaper. Other established small businesses like Main-Street shops or “Motel-6”-style motels are in a position to benefit in many ways.

This fund also has established a “Mobility Fund” which helps cellular-telephony / wireless-broadband carriers to extend their wireless footprint into the rural areas, including the Tribal areas.

The FCC have placed requirements for proper accountability regarding service provision. Here, it must be proven that the carriers are actually deploying the broadband services to the rural areas in question and that the services are real modern networks.

But there is a gap concerning the definition of the broadband services in this press release. Here, there isn’t a determined headline speed for the data services and the FCC haven’t qualified the point of measurement for a rural broadband service. This can lead to installation of DSLAMs in an exchange yet link these modems to the customers via decrepit telephone infrastructure. As I have observed, this environment leads to reduced DSL service reliability and bandwidth.

There is also another gap concerning the improvement of broadband coverage in peri-urban areas which were standalone rural towns. As I have said before, these areas may be servicing a farming industry or an area of outstanding beauty but they could be working with decrepit communications infrastructure. These areas should be worked on when it comes to building out telecommunications coverage.

They have also modernised the intercarrier compensation funding regime to encompass VoIP services. This is especially as more American households and businesses head towards VoIP telephony setups, whether to reduce call costs or take advantage of features in these setups.

From this, I have seen some positive steps to cover the rural parts of the US with real broadband and I hope that the FCC doesn’t become a toothless tiger in this respect.

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